THREE gardai are under investigation for allegedly getting involved in a "brothel bust-up" after trying to solicit prostitutes during their Christmas night out.
A garda superintendent has been appointed to investigate allegations of serious assaults by the three Dublin-based officers on two men in Limerick city.
Both injured parties had to be hospitalised.
The alleged incident occurred after the three officers and several colleagues went to Limerick earlier this month for their Christmas party.
They spent the night socialising in the city centre before two of the men split from the group and, it is claimed, went searching for a brothel in the Catherine Street area.
One man, who lives in the area, was on his way home when the officers are said to have mistaken his residence for a brothel.
As the man opened his front door, the two off-duty officers tried to enter the building and "demanded to be taken to prostitutes".
A stand-off occurred between the man and the guards until the pair eventually left.
A short time later, the man left his home to get something to eat. He and another man walked down Catherine Street and into Cecil Street in the direction of the Chicken Hut.
There, they met the same two officers, now accompanied by a third.
A heated argument took place and descended into a street fight.
The two men, who were unaware they were involved in a fracas with three serving gardai, sustained blows to the head.
The fight was broken up when officers in a passing patrol car intervened.
They took the details of all the men, but none of the three officers was arrested.
The Herald can reveal that the three, who are based in Dublin, have not been suspended and are still working as the investigation into the incident, which is believed to have occurred on the weekend of December 7 and 8, continues.
The Garda Ombudsman has been notified.
Officers based in Limerick are overseeing the investigation, which is being treated as a criminal case.
A source said: "One of the injured men suffered serious facial injuries."
The two men were treated for their injuries at University Hospital Limerick.
On being discharged, one of the men was told to return when the swelling on his face had eased so medical staff could determine the severity of his injuries. It was feared he had sustained a fracture.
The Herald has learned that a garda superintendent has been appointed to oversee the investigation.
The area where the alleged punch-up occurred is heavily covered by CCTV and investigating gardai are examining relative footage.
Over the past year, the problem of prostitution in this area of Limerick was highlighted when parking signs were altered, rebranding Catherine Street as "Red Light District".